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Chef Peter Brave prepares to make a 200-mile hike for charity 

click to enlarge HIKING CHEF: Brave will walk for Potluck Rescue.
  • HIKING CHEF: Brave will walk for Potluck Rescue.

From April 3-17, Brave New Restaurant's Peter Brave will attempt a solo hike on the 223-mile Ouachita Trail to raise awareness and money for Potluck Food Rescue of Arkansas (donate via potluckrescue.org). On a recent sunny afternoon, I met Chef Brave at his Riverdale restaurant to talk about trail food, chef pants and how families can cook well on a tight budget.

Tell me about training for the Ouachita Trail.

I'm actually more in rehab mode now than anything else. August is when I started training. This is a through hike. That's what they call it, when you start at one end and end up at the other end. There's no stopping. That's versus section hiking, which is what I've been doing in the training — you go out and do a section at a time. I've realized that, you know, with my joints and the weight I was carrying — it's a fine line when you're 50 years old to be in shape or overused and out of shape.

What gave you the idea to do this?

I used to do a lot of backpacking when I was a kid and through my high school days and before I moved off and started doing the chef-y thing. And I think some of it is just me chasing my youth, you know. A little bit of a mid-life crisis.

With a through-hike, the word "fun" would probably not be one of the top words to describe. It's more about a sense of accomplishment, you know, challenging yourself. And I've gotten my weight and my times down to where it is enjoyable.

Are you going to cook on the trail?

A lot of the hardcore guys that do this through-hiking stuff don't cook at all. I'm going to cook because my stove weighs 15 grams — I use little fuel tablets. So I've got oatmeal, coffee and reconstituted dinner. My whole pack of food weighs 13 and a half pounds!

But are you going to do real cooking, or just eat reconstituted dinner?

If I go out for three or four days I'll take gourmet food, a steak or a lobster tail. But for this particular thing you've got to do the calories versus the weight, it's a real ratio that you've got to be conscious of.

They've made such advancements in dehydrated food, freeze-dried food — the power bars are better than they used to be.

How're you able to take off for two weeks?

Janice, my sous chef has been with me for something like 13 years. One of my waiters for 18 years. My manager for 11 years. I've got two or three managers that've been here for 8 or 9 years.

They give me stability and consistency in what we do around here, and what Brave New Restaurant's identity is. Early on, the hours were long. But over the years, as I've moved forward, I made it to where I slowly but surely could delegate work. The challenge for me was delegating what I can, that doesn't need my literal or metaphorical signature on it, and not to delegate the things that I enjoy doing. I don't want to delegate chopping up vegetables and mindlessly filleting fish and things like that that I feel like I've got a gift for and that I enjoy doing. And some of the stuff is my ego. Can Janice after 13 years do everything that I do? Hell yeah, she can do everything that I do just a well if not better because she's younger and more nimble than me.

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